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DiversityNursing Blog

Patient Advocacy: A Closer Look

Posted by Sarah West APRN, FNP-BC

Wed, Oct 18, 2023 @ 10:31 AM

Patient advocacy is a critical aspect of providing safe and effective patient care. Nurse advocates are tasked with helping patients understand and navigate their healthcare journey, including answering questions, explaining medical care, discussing and explaining billing or insurance, and other healthcare-related topics.

Nurses are often the first and last contact for patients in the healthcare setting. Patients rely on Nurses to support them and keep them safe and educated throughout their interactions. Nurses advocate for their patients by respecting their dignity, protecting patient rights, treating patients equally and without bias, and preventing undue suffering. Here are some of the many ways Nurses advocate for their patients.


Patient advocates provide information and insight into medical treatment options and medical conditions. Nurses can connect with patients and meet them where they are in their healthcare journey by helping them understand their medical needs, where the future may lead them, and any potential complications. Education is crucial in patient advocacy because knowledge enables patients to make informed decisions about their healthcare.


Communication is essential to ensure patients receive high-quality care and good health outcomes. It also helps improve patient satisfaction. Nurse advocates help to facilitate communication between patients, family members, and healthcare providers to ensure that information is effectively shared and understood by everyone on the healthcare team.

Nurses may find setting up family meetings with the patient, their family, and healthcare representatives to be an impactful way of communicating health diagnoses and changes.

Protecting Patient Rights

Protecting patient rights is a fundamental aspect of Nursing and involves ensuring that patients receive fair treatment, privacy, and autonomy in their medical care. Patients are entitled to fair treatment that is free of bias, as well as privacy and confidentiality regarding their medical conditions and history.

Nurses must respect and protect patients' privacy by safeguarding their medical records and personal health information. Patient rights also include access to medical records and the right to refuse medical treatment. Protecting patient rights involves fostering a culture of respect, transparency, and advocacy for all healthcare professionals.

Informed Consent

Informed consent is the process by which Nurses, as the representatives of the healthcare team, provide patients with a complete understanding of the details, risks, benefits, and alternatives of a proposed medical treatment, procedure, or intervention before giving consent.

Obtaining informed consent involves presenting all relevant information to the patient in clear and understandable language so they can make an informed decision regarding their health. Informed consent should be given freely without persuasion and only after all patient questions have been answered.

Address Health Disparities

Addressing health disparities as a Nurse advocate involves advocating for equitable healthcare access, outcomes, and opportunities for all individuals, especially in underserved or marginalized communities of patients. Nurses can better advocate for their patients and help address health disparities by becoming educated about the root causes and contributing factors of health disparities and social determinants of health, including socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, education, and access to healthcare.

Nurses should strive to enhance their cultural competence to provide patient-centered care that respects diverse cultural beliefs, practices, and values. Other ways to address health disparities as a Nurse advocate include conducting community outreach programs to provide health education and preventative health screenings or advocating for accessible and affordable healthcare services to those in underserved communities.

Influence Policy Change

Nurses can be powerful patient advocates by influencing and supporting policy change. Nurses can use their expertise, experiences, and passion to improve healthcare by influencing decision-makers to make impactful changes. Consider contacting a policymaker by writing a letter or setting up a meeting to discuss a need for change you are passionate about.

Nurses can also actively participate in developing healthcare policy by joining committees and advisory boards to offer their expertise and knowledge, and translate it into policies that address important healthcare challenges. By actively participating in the policy-making process, Nurses can effectively advocate for policy changes that improve patient outcomes and the well-being of our patients and communities.

Be the Change

Patient advocacy is a critical and rewarding component of every Nursing career, and every Nurse has the opportunity to be a patient advocate. Nurses who advocate for their patients foster a patient-centered healthcare system prioritizing patients' rights, well-being, and preferences. Nurse advocacy creates a safe, informed, and more effective healthcare experience for all.

Topics: patient advocate, Patient advocate nursing

How RNs Can Practice Patient Advocate Nursing

Posted by Brian Engard

Fri, May 26, 2017 @ 12:47 PM

patient-advocate-nursing-CU-600x280.jpgRegistered nurses are the most frequent point of contact with patients in healthcare. They “provide and coordinate patient care, educate patients and the public about various health conditions, and provide advice and emotional support to patients and their family members,” according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They typically work as part of a team with doctors and other healthcare workers, and they provide the bulk of direct patient care.

As hands-on caregivers, nurses have the primary responsibility of ensuring quality, ethical care for their patients. To this end, patient advocacy is an integral part of practicing nursing; in fact, one provision of the American Nurses Association Code of Ethics says that “the nurse promotes, advocates for, and protects the rights, health, and safety of the patient.”

Nurses oversee the healthcare of many patients and can be privy to concerning practices. Hospitals are required to look after their own financial well-being, legal obligations and other factors that can sometimes cause patient care to deteriorate, and sometimes healthcare workers make mistakes. When this happens, someone who practices patient advocate nursing steps in and looks out for the patients’ well-being.

Patient Advocate Nursing in Practice

American Nurse Today (ANT) defines advocacy as “using one’s position to support, protect, or speak out for the rights and interests of another.” This practice is vital in healthcare, because errors and oversights can result in severe injury or illness, or even loss of life. According to a Johns Hopkins study, medical errors are the No. 3 cause of death in the United States, at roughly 250,000 deaths per year. A nurse patient advocate must not only catch these errors, but also argue for their correction in the future in order to promote safety and patient health.

Of all the healthcare professionals who have contact with patients, nurses are the most ideally suited for patient advocacy. Their constant contact with patients allows them many opportunities to catch errors, such as mislabeled I.V. bags or incorrect patient charts, and their familiarity with their patients can give them the ability to notice small changes in patient condition that another healthcare provider might miss.

Patient advocacy is not without its challenges, however. Being a nurse advocate for one’s patients often means correcting the mistakes of other healthcare workers and can lead to confrontations. In extreme cases, such as the below example from ANT, retaliation can even occur:

“One of the most egregious examples of retaliation for patient advocacy activities occurred recently in Winkler County, Texas, when two nurses, Vickilyn Galle and Anne Mitchell, were criminally indicted by the county attorney for reporting a physician to the Texas Medical Board because of patient-safety concerns. One week before trial, charges against Galle were dropped. A jury found Mitchell not guilty. Subsequently, the Texas Medical Board took action against the physician for witness intimidation as well as practice violations. Further, the Texas Attorney General’s office indicted the hospital administrator, Winkler County sheriff, county prosecutor, and physician for retaliation and other charges.”

The American Journal of Critical Care suggests that the best way to avoid such conflicts while practicing patient advocacy is to embrace a spirit of collaboration with other healthcare professionals, rather than taking the attitude that it is the nurse’s job to protect patients from the mistakes of others. When advocating for a patient, it’s natural to have an impulse to cast blame or render judgment of someone putting that patient at risk. While that may or may not be justified, often it’s more effective for the patient and the organization to approach patient advocacy by presenting solutions and trying to understand why problems exist in the first place, in order to better prevent them from occurring in the future.

Going from RN to BSN

Developing the right knowledge and communication skills to be an effective nurse patient advocate takes training. With an online RN to BSN degree from Campbellsville University, you can learn those skills in order to better advocate for your patients. Study in a flexible, dynamic environment with a schedule that works for your life.

Topics: registered nurse, patient advocate, Patient advocate nursing

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